President Barack Obama of the United States concluded his visit to Kenya with a word of congratulation upon their economic and political progress while also cautioning them against the dangers of corruption and terrorism.
In a speech in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Obama said his father’s homeland had “come so far in just my lifetime”.
Obama praised Kenya as a model in a fast-growing region. “Kenya is leading the way, it looked very different than it does today.”
Obama however warned Kenya of the dangers of corruption, terrorism and tribal or ethnic division saying they are threats to its future.
Obama said: “There is no country that is completely free from corruption. The fact is, too often here in Kenya, corruption is tolerated because that’s how it’s always been done.
“Fighting corruption is not just about changing laws. Ordinary people have to stand up and say enough is enough. Corruption continues to deny many Kenyans jobs. Every shilling paid as a bribe could be paid to someone who is doing an honest day’s work.”
“Kenya is at a crossroads, a moment filled with peril but enormous promise,” said Obama: “Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now,” he said to applause from a huge audience at Kasarani Indoor Areena in Nairobi on Sunday afternoon.
Obama however warned that despite the country’s political stability, tribal and ethnic divisions could be stirred up.
Obama also warned Kenyans to shake off some old traditions, citing ethnicity as a dangerous and outdated thing.
“A politics that’s based on only tribe and ethnicity is doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure – a failure of imagination,” he said.
However, he praised the country for emerging from the ethnic violence that erupted after the disputed 2007 election.
President Obama also warned that the “cancer” of corruption was costing the country 250,000 jobs.
He also urged Kenya to “embrace diversity”, a comment many understood to refer to tolerance for gay rights.
Proud to be first Kenyan-American president of US
President Barack Obama spoke proudly of his Kenyan heritage before a raucous and affectionate crowd in Nairobi on Sunday.
“I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya, and of course I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States,” said Obama to the loud cheers of over 4,500 people in the audience. It was the time he referred to himself as such.
Obama’s visit was an official event as much as it was a private occasion.
On Friday after touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Obama hosted select members of his family for dinner at his hotel. The family re-union had brought together among others, his grandmother Sarah Obama and his half-sister Dr. Auma Obama, the woman who picked a young Obama the first time he visited his father’s homeland in 1988.
The New York Times reported that during the dinner that had Kenyan food, including chicken, fish and beef, Obama spent part of the time “begging for forgiveness” that his schedule did not allow him to interact more with his family members as they wished.
“Once I’m a private citizen, I will have more freedom to reconnect,” said Obama.